Getting Covered in the Big Easy Has Never Been Easier

Posted February 7, 2014

New Orleans is always a great place to visit, and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had a terrific event there Friday afternoon. She talked with Mayor Mitch Landrieu and residents about how it’s never been easier in the Big Easy for people to learn about their options and enroll in affordable, quality health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Secretary Sebelius, who congratulated Mayor Landrieu on his decisive re-election victory, was updated by the Mayor on the city’s efforts to help uninsured residents get covered. Just before the event at the Mahalia Jackson Early Learning Center, Total Community Action convened a training session for in-person assisters, health care professionals, young adult organizers, and others to share tips on how best to help consumers enroll in coverage.

Community efforts like these are in the spirit of President Obama’s State of the Union call for 2014 to be a Year of Action. The President has called on all Americans to help their friends and neighbors get covered through the Marketplace at HealthCare.gov by March 31st, the end of open enrollment.

Secretary Sebelius noted that there are nearly 795,000 people across the state, including 175,000 in New Orleans, who are uninsured and eligible for coverage. Ninety-one percent of these uninsured Louisianans, and 91 percent of the uninsured folks in New Orleans, should be eligible for reduced costs for a private plan or Medicaid.

If the state expanded Medicaid, 452,000 people across the state, including 99,000 in New Orleans, could be covered by Medicaid. As it is, Louisiana taxpayers are losing roughly $4.3 million a day, while the state turns down federal dollars to expand Medicaid, the Secretary said.

Secretary Sebelius and Mayor Landrieu joined an informal panel discussion with three residents who spoke of their experiences being uninsured and how pleased they were to find quality coverage through the Marketplace that was cheaper than they could have imagined. They were all eligible for reduced costs to help pay for their monthly premium.

Chris Marino, a 36-year-old artist, had been uninsured for three years after leaving his job to fulfill his dream of being an artist. After breaking his finger in a bike accident while delivering pizzas, he decided that he should check out his options in the Marketplace. He now has a Blue Cross Blue Shield bronze plan that costs about $42 a month.

Abdi Farah is 26 and also an artist. An art residency program covered his insurance, but after the residency ended last May, the cost was too high for him to continue coverage this year.  Abdi logged on to HealthCare.gov and enrolled in a silver plan with Highmark. The plan costs $77 a month compared to the $120 he had paid during the residency. Abdi said coverage is important so that he doesn’t face a financial catastrophe in case something unexpected happened.

Angele Bravo is a 29-year-old single mother who was insured until three years ago. She now works for a temp agency that does not provide health coverage. With the help of a personal assistor at the St. Thomas Health Center, Angele signed up for a silver plan with Humana, as well as a standalone dental plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield. She said her combined coverage costs $17.17. Her coverage began February 1st, and Angele has already been to the doctor for a consultation.

It’s a new day for Chris, Abdi, and Angele and the 9 million Americans who have already signed up for private insurance, or signed up, renewed, or learned they are eligible for Medicaid coverage.